My Favorite Risotto

Pasta Trapanese as seen on George Hirsch Lifestyle

Risotto is a traditional rice dish from Northern Italy, specifically Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto. It was introduced by Arabian people who dominated Sicily and parts of the Southern mainland in the late Middle Ages.  

A mainstay of Milanese cuisine, Risotto Milanese is prepared using beef stock and saffron which is served with Osso Bucco. When using rice to make a risotto, choose short-grained round or semi-round rice; among the best rices for making risotto are Arborio, Vialone Nano, and Carnaroli.


I have enjoyed many excellent prepared risotto dishes. One of the most memorable was made my cousin Mauro’s wife Anna, while in Rome. Anna’s risotto is made with pesto and is meant for basil lovers like myself. Her combination is culinary kismet; the perfume-rich tasty herb coats every grain of rice. The other master of risotto is Chef Antonio Cereda, with his Porcini Risotto. Antonio, my friend from Northern Italy is the Executive Chef on Princess Cruises. His Porcini Risotto marries the mellow earthiness of fungi with creamy velvety rice.


Shrimp Risotto with Asparagus

Makes 4 servings 

FromGeorge Hirsch Living it UP! | 

1 lb. uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined 

2 teaspoons dried basil 

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil 

Fresh ground black pepper 

1 small onion, chopped 

4 slices Pancetta, roughly chopped 

1 cup Arborio rice 

2- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth, hot 

3 Tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped 

1 Tablespoon lemon juice 

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel 

1 cup half & half 

1 cup fresh asparagus tips or fresh baby spinach 

Grated Parmesan cheese, to taste

Pre heat a large sauce pan to medium heat. 

Season shrimp with basil, black pepper and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add shrimp to pan, sear on each side for one minute and set aside. Do not fully cook. 

In the same sauce pan add 1 tablespoon Olive Oil, onion and pancetta. Cook onion and pancetta 4-5 minutes but do not brown. Add Arborio rice and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Slowly add 1/2 cup broth, stirring constantly for 2 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Lower temperature to a low, gentle simmer. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently every 4-5 minutes or as rice absorbs all of the broth until rice becomes tender. 

Return seared shrimp back into pan with risotto and cook for two to three minutes, until shrimp is fully cooked or until shrimp turn pink. 

Cooking time will vary from 25-35 minutes, as will the amount of broth, depending on exact temperature of pan. 

Add half and half and fresh Parmesan cheese, to taste. Optional: Serve topped with steamed asparagus tips or fresh baby spinach.